The End of the Case
by Christine Tailer (straightcreeklaw.com)
“All rise,” and we stood. Farm life seemed far away. The bailiff’s words echoed as I watched the
jury filing into the courtroom. My client stood beside me, nervously fidgeting, having asked many
times over the last few hours, what I thought the verdict would be. I had answered each time with
variations on the theme of uncertainty. I have learned that in litigation, as in life, there is no such
thing as a crystal ball. I have won when I thought I was losing, and lost when I knew for certain that I
would win. I never know whether my perfect spring garden will wither by the end of a dry summer.
The sweat trickled down under my arm. I really don’t get nervous any more, but once the trial is
over and all that I have left to do is stand one more time and hear the verdict read, I feel a knot
tighten in my stomach. My hands feel weak and I know that it would not be wise to pick up the
paper cup of water on counsel table. It is best to let my mouth stay dry.
My client and I exchanged hopeful glances and then we looked over to watch the jurors file over to
their assigned seats. They walked in line, each one either looking down or staring intently at the
back of the juror just ahead, until first Juror Number Three, and then Juror Number Five, and finally
the alternate, looked over at me with quick glances and brief smiles. I knew then that this would be a
good verdict for my client. No eye contact bodes poorly. Eye contact plus smiles bodes well.
The life of a trial lawyer is all about learning life’s lessons and learning how to share those
lessons with others, the people in the jury box. For twenty five years now I have been telling stories,
real stories about real people, whose lives really do hang in the balance, to the real people whose
job it is to decide, people who listen and weigh the evidence and determine the balance.
“You may be seated”, and we sat.
“Have you reached a verdict?”
“We have, Your Honor.” The jury foreman handed the verdict forms to the bailiff, who carried
them over to the judge.
The judge shuffled through the forms and set all but one aside. He knew the verdict, but his face
bore no inkling of favor or surprise. He should have been a professional poker player.
He handed the one deciding form, carrying the fate of the parties who sat before him, back to the
bailiff. “You will now hear your verdict read in open court.”
The bailiff haltingly read the name of the court off of the form, the parties and the case number.
Then the bailiff read, “We the jury, being duly impaneled and sworn, do hereby find in favor of
Defendant”. Then there was silence. I knew that the jury had decided in our favor, but my client did
not quite understand. I reached over and squeezed a cold, yet sweaty hand. “We won”, I whispered.
“We really won?”
“Yes”, I answered, and we sat still while the judge thanked the jury for performing their civic duty
and dismissed them. We rose for the last time as they filed out. They now talked animatedly,
saying their good-byes. Some promised to stay in touch, having bonded during their tenure.
Others hurried off to return to simple citizenship.
My client and I exchanged a lingering handshake and then my client headed off, to return to a
life not weighted down with the care of this case.
On the other side of the courtroom there were tears and rage and I could see that my colleague
was busy. We could talk later. I packed up my briefcase as I said good-bye to the bailiff, and I too
My husband and dogs gave me a warm welcome when I got home. Over dinner we talked about
getting the combine out of the weather.